Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York, NY.
July 29, 2023.
For the past three years, the reigning giants of the ballet world in NYC have joined forces to present free shows at Lincoln Center. BAAND (Ballet Hispánico, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet and Dance Theatre of Harlem) Together Dance Festival was an artistic child of the pandemic and first premiered as part of the Restart Stages program in 2021, in an effort to find safe ways to perform. The mixed-bill program showcased each company and offered audiences a rare chance to catch such varied and exceptional work in a lovely outdoor space at no cost.
The evening of my attendance was delayed due to a passing summer thunderstorm, giving the audience a chance to greet friends, have a glass of wine or a bite, and marvel at the clouds dissipating majestically in a sort of opening act. The pervious night’s show was cancelled due to heat, and everyone in attendance seemed grateful for the weather, despite the wet seats.
Six pieces were on the program — one from each company, and a collaboration between NYCB and Ballet Hispánico. Nearly each work leaned toward contemporary ballet, and all were approachable choices for a wide range of tastes.
Opening the show, Ballet Hispánico showed a flamenco-inspired piece, Linea Recta. While clearly inspired by the flamenco tradition, the work morphed into something more ethereal, while keeping the fire and sensuality of the style.
Cooling things down, ABT took the stage with a beautiful classical duet, Other Dances. Gillian Murphy and Aran Bell performed the night of my attendance, and it was an honor to watch Murphy, such a veteran of the stage, dance with the technical prowess and relaxed confidence that only a decades long career can foster.
DTH performed new Artistic Director Robert Garland’s Nyman’s String Quartet No 2. A blend of classical ballet with contemporary and street elements, it was fun to watch but left me wanting more from these incredible dancers – their full technique and talent were held back a bit.
The one premiere of the night was a collaboration between Ballet Hispánico and NYCB. A duet commissioned by Lincoln Center and choreographed by Pedro Ruiz, Pas de O’Farrill was a powerful expression of both ballet and Afro-Cuban techniques inspired by the jazz history and vibrance of life in NYC.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performed a tribute piece to icon Judith Jamison, entitled Dancing Spirit. Choreographed by Ronald K. Brown, and set to music by Wynton Marsalis, Duke Ellington and War, the company danced aptly to the title of the piece and took the audience along on a truly spirited journey with elegance, grace and a clear command of the stage.
Lastly, NYCB stormed the stage with a cast of over 40 dancers to an almost deafening Dan Deacon techno track in Justin Peck’s The Times are Racing. Originally choreographed in 2017, the tone easily applied to the world of 2023, and the dancers delivered a dedicated performance, closing out the festival and the night on a very high, but poignant and contemplative note.
For all that NYC is, the pleasure of sitting outdoors to consume art is a simple one, and one that this audience seemed all too eager to take on. There was much lost in the course of the pandemic, but this growth of necessity to keep performing under difficult circumstances is truly something gained.
By Emily Sarkissian of Dance Informa.